For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.
So never forget how you used to be. Those of you born as outsiders to Israel were outcasts, branded “the uncircumcised” by those who bore the sign of the covenant in their flesh, a sign made with human hands. You had absolutely no connection to the Anointed; you were strangers, separated from God’s people. You were aliens to the covenant they had with God; you were hopelessly stranded without God in a fractured world. But now, because of Jesus the Anointed and His sacrifice, all of that has changed. God gathered you who were so far away and brought you near to Him by the royal blood of the Anointed, our Liberating King.
He is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one. He offered His body on the sacrificial altar to bring an end to the law’s ordinances and dictations that separated Jews from the outside nations. His desire was to create in His body one new humanity from the two opposing groups, thus creating peace. Effectively the cross becomes God’s means to kill off the hostility once and for all so that He is able to reconcile them both to God in this one new body. The Great Preacher of peace and love came for you, and His voice found those of you who were near and those who were far away. By Him both have access to the Father in one Spirit. Eph 2:8-18 The VOICE
Our church is working through passages in Ephesians through the Lenten season, and yesterday our message was brought to us by ATS student Shauna Rushing. Shauna shared her testimony of answering an unexpected calling, revealing that sometimes our vision isn’t God’s vision. Paul is a perfect example of this. He was on a mission to eradicate all followers of the “The Way” (Christ-followers), but an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus left him answering an unexpected calling, but one that was God’s vision for Paul’s life—a vision that included the reconciliation of two groups that stood opposed to one another—Jews and Gentiles.
In this passage, we see these two groups that in that day and culture were at odds with one another. In the passage above we find these two groups—polarized, opposed to one another—now unified by the death of Jesus on the cross. We still have people at odds today, groups polarized, and those that stand opposed to one another—whether it’s politics, gender, race, religion, or whatever matter is currently dividing us. But we, as Christians, as those reconciled by Jesus, are called to be mediators of reconciliation!
I love the VOICE translation this passage above. Note verses 15-16 again: “His desire was to create in His body one new humanity from the two opposing groups, thus creating peace. Effectively the cross becomes God’s means to kill off the hostility once and for all so that He is able to reconcile them both to God in this one new body.”
It is Jesus that breaks down walls between people. God is the initiator of reconciliation—it is a gift of God’s grace. Reconciliation happens through and because of Christ, and his death on the cross. It’s costly. We are first reconciled to God through Christ, and then, out of that place of identity as one in the body of Christ, we are called to reconcile others to Jesus, the Great Preacher of Peace.
Shauna challenged us in this current culture, where there are high levels of division and low levels of reconciliation, to consider if we fall victim to a seeming “economy of scarcity,” which divides people into “haves” and “have nots.” Among other things she challenged us to be generous with others, to be thankful, even with little, and to resist thinking we need more when we already have more than we need. Most importantly, she challenged us to live lives of peace that bring others into a reconciled life in Jesus, the Anointed, our Liberating King.
During this Lenten season, perhaps it is time to seek the Lord’s wisdom in a situation where you are at odds with another? Reach out for HIS peace. If the cross is “God’s means to kill off hostility once and for all,” then reach to the cross and its power.
I hope you are also joining us on Wednesdays for the “7” series (the last 7 statements of Jesus from the cross in poetry, art and song) and on Fridays for the “Embodied” series as we move creatively through the Lenten season here at jodythomae.com. Previous posts in this Ephesians series can be found here:
Creative blessings, Jody